Lower Your Tolerance to Stress

Surprisingly, the solution to stress is to begin to lower our tolerance to stress. This is the opposite of what most of us have been taught, but it is the truth. Lowering our tolerance to stress is based on the simple principle that our level of internal stress will always be exactly equal to our current tolerance. This is why people who can handle lots of stress always have to do just that.

People with extremely high levels of stress tolerance might end up with a stress-related heart attack before they begin to pay attention to what the stress is telling them. Others may end their marriage or find themselves in a recovery center for alcohol or drugs. People with lower tolerance might begin paying attention to their stress earlier, when their job first begins to seem overwhelming or when they find themselves snapping at their children. Still others, who can’t tolerate stress at all, sense that it’s time to slow down and regain perspective when they start merely having negative thoughts about their friends or family.

The lower our tolerance is for stress, the better off we are psychologically. When our goal is to feel our stress as early as possible, we can “nip stress in the bud” earlier, and return more quickly to a positive feeling state. We have choices; in fact, we have a series of “choice points,” in any situation. The longer we wait to disregard the stressful thoughts, the more difficult it becomes to bring ourselves back to our natural state of mind. Eventually, with practice, any of us can get to the point where we are aware of our negative thoughts before they pull us off track.

— Richard Carlson, PhD, You Can Be Happy No Matter What, p. 105

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